MGM's Our Gang series had fallen into such disrepute by 1944 that the studio released the series' valedictory offering, Tale of a Dog, as an "MGM Miniature." This one begins as black youngsters Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) and Big Shot (Cordell Hickman) decide to give their dog Smallpox to the Our Gang kids as a present. Overhearing this, the gang misunderstands, thinking that "smallpox" is the dreaded contagious disease rather than a pooch. Within minutes, the kids manage to spread rumors about an impending smallpox epidemic, and before long the entire city -- and the Board of Health -- is in a state of panic. It is hard to determine which scene in this film is worse: the "Loose Lips Sink Ships" curtain speech delivered by the mayor or the appalling racial humor when Buckwheat's mom (Willa Pearl Curtis) misinterprets the doctor's instructions to "isolate" her son. Then there's the closing gag, in which Smallpox the dog speaks in an exaggerated Negro dialect. First shown on April 15, 1944, Tale of a Dog was the final Our Gang one-reeler to be filmed, but not the last to be released; that dubious honor went to the equally unfunny Dancing Romeo.
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